Open Homes, Open Gardens, Open Studios

I’m sitting in the kitchen at 104, it’s coffee time and there are sounds of yet more dismantling from the front of the house.  The last bits of timber are being removed from the ceilings and walls, and more evidence of the dry rot fungus has been found 😦  It is almost certainly dead but it is unsettling.  We wonder yet how far the house must be unpicked to rid ourselves of the scourge.  It is bringing a new meaning to the concept of Open-Plan!

Progressing the work has been painfully slow because so many interests are involved: the builder who renovated the house before we bought it, his two insurance companies who are involved, the expert and the technicians responsible for remedial treatment and us.  They communicate sporadically and phases of work inch forward.  I am amazed how well Nick manages to comprehend what is happening, follows and conducts conversations entirely in French.  His vocabulary has expanded in unforeseen directions!

We crossed the Channel on Tuesday.  I left a calm and orderly house and garden.  My study/workroom is unpacked and I have just about enough shelf space for books and papers.  There has been time to set up my microscope and start the protracted curation job that will be necessary to sort, label and box up specimens.  At some point I need to decide how to deal with my collection.  One museum has already expressed an interest.

Best of all I have made the curtains for my room.  I waited until I found the right fabric, and I knew it when I saw it in my favourite shop in Godalming.   It’s a large sweeping peacock-feather design on an off-white background.  They are light, airy and gorgeous.

Just about all the plants that needed to be planted out are safely bedded.  Some things are growing really slowly and I think this must be because the soil is poor and we need time to feed it up with vegetative material.  The beans and peas in particular are not putting on growth as they should.  Nick’s compost making is prodigious and he has been persuaded to bring some of the precious commodity back from France for the Dorset garden.  The Tom Thumb tomatoes I sowed and planted in containers are doing really well and the asparagus crowns we ordered from Suttons in May have nearly all sprouted.  On this basis we may be able to harvest a very few spears next year.

One morning I slipped over to Cerne Abbas for coffee with friends.  The lady of the house is a keen gardener and allotment holder.  She is new to the game but her plot is verdant and fruitful.  It is set on a gently sloping hillside, with an open, picturesque aspect, on the periphery of the village, a 5-minute walk from her home.  I get a tour, also of her pretty cottage garden which will be on show over the forthcoming weekend when the village runs its Open Gardens scheme.  My star of her show is the pot of blue Himalayan poppies in the dappled shade of a tree at the edge of the lawn.

I’ve managed to be on the spot for both June Book Group meetings.  My Godalming read, A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, was an engrossing and rewarding book.  David Mitchell is an author who does not fail to please.  Other books have been a bit lack lustre and I’m waiting for the next page-turner to light my fire.  The trip to Godalming coincided with Surrey Artists’  Open Studios so we were treated to a glass of wine in fellow reader Christine Charlesworth’s studio.

Her sculptures are receiving increasing recognition, most recently at the Society of Women Artists’ 150th Exhibition in London where she won an award.  She sculpts her people – often the subjects are children – starting with an armature which she coats in clay.  From this a latex mould is made which will contain the bronze resin mix.  Then there are various finishing techniques to carry out.  This enables her to produce limited editions of her sculptures which are more affordable than solid bronze.    And they look wonderful.

Christine is inspired by the human figure and aims not just to capture a likeness but to show life and natural movement in each piece.  Looking at her collection I think the last thing in her sculpting process is to breathe life into her figures.

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